God's Salvation Church

The God's Salvation Church has emerged in San Dimas, California as potentially suicidal sect eerily reminiscent to the Heaven's Gate cult. The Taiwan-based God's Salvation Church came to the attention of authorities on December 24, 1997, when Sheriff's detectives went to investigate a Taiwanese woman's claim that her teen-age daughter was kidnapped by her cult member uncle. While rescuing the girl at the church, detectives learned that the group was going to Garland, Texas, where they expect Christ to come down in a flying saucer to pick them up . Authorities also found neatly packed backpacks with matching white clothing and sneakers for the members to take in their heavenly rendevouz.

Already 140 followers of the church -- dressed in white and wearing sunglasses and white cowboy hats -- have left for Garland for the expected March 31 date with their maker. Though church members deny their intentions of commiting mass suicide, Taiwanese media reported last week that the group's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, was encouraging newcomers to kill themselves so their bodies could be picked up by flying saucers. Chen -- who believes the Bible got it all wrong -- decided to move his church to Garland early this summer because the name sounds like and means "God's Land." He also interprets promotional sky writings as signs from God especifically directed at him. The former Taiwanese sociology teacher did claim to be the father of Jesus Christ and that God will assume an identical body to his own at 10 a.m. on March 31.

On March 25 God's alleged TV appearance on Channel 18 at 12:01 failed to materialize. Instead, believers -- under the glare of worldwide media lights -- were treated to static instead of a broadcast heralding the second coming. Even in failure Mr. Chen -- in his signature hat and white clothing -- said his faith remains immutable. However, in a strangely non-apocalyptic manner, he asked others to stop believing his preachings. "Since God's appearance on television has not been realized, you can take what we have preached as nonsense. I would rather you don't believe what I say anymore."